Bankers and Bandits

By Raffique Shah
March 04, 2016

Raffique ShahI don’t know if we should be more afraid of banks and bankers or bandits and murderers.


Both strike when we are most vulnerable. They relieve us of our life’s savings, of what we have worked tirelessly to provide for our families, with a callousness that is chilling.

Bandits wield guns to relieve us of cash, jewellery and such valuables. Banks use lawyers to seize our cars or homes when we are down and out, as many among retrenched workers will find out over the next year or so.

In the current economic recession, I see bankers as being deadlier than bandits.

Last week, I watched in awe as one female banker told an audience with what I thought was anticipatory relish, “Foreclosures are coming!”

Foreclosure is one of the dirty words in the lexicon of harsh economic times. The others are retrenchment, repossession, eviction, shame, hunger, begging, suffering…you get my drift.

Banks foreclose on properties, and I confine my comments to residential real estate owned and occupied by single families, when the mortgagees cannot meet their monthly payments. In a recession, such situation arises when the only or main breadwinner in the home loses his job.

It matters not that he (or she) has dutifully paid every instalment for 20 of the 25-year mortgage, or is a first year homeowner. Banks are not moved by your plight of having held a steady job and been a good customer who has fallen on lean times through no fault of yours, but a victim of the economic times, someone who would likely bounce back within a year or so by landing another job or venturing into business.

Almost overnight, families that did everything right-educate themselves, save to acquire a house, eschew wasteful spending, and are bringing up their children properly-are evicted, thrown on the streets, forced to seek refuge with relatives, or, as happened during the recession of the 1980s-1990s, flee the country and start all over again in a strange land.

What angers me is that usually these victims are model families, the bedrock of what good is left in the society. They are invariably skilled workers or professionals who are in their forties, who do not lean on the State for subsidised housing. They build their own, or buy properties on the open market, and secure loans that they can afford given their household incomes.

Then unexpectedly, the national or global economies go into recession, they are retrenched, and their dream homes turn into nightmares.

One would think that the banks, all of which make huge profits every year whatever the economic climate, who hold billions of depositors’ dollars in their vaults on which they pay zero interest, who impose an array of charges for transactions and even no transactions, and who increase their loans’ rates almost whimsically (currently more than nine percent), might exercise some discretion, extend some sympathy by deferring payments on mortgage loans for maybe a year to allow customers time to recover.

In the short-term, such merciful acts might cost them less than $100 million annually, and in the medium term they will recover all monies owed to them-with added interest.

But the quality of mercy is unknown to the modern-day corporate Shylocks.

They demand not just their pound of flesh, but gallons of blood from people who have fallen on hard times: kick them when they are down!

Worse is what happens to the properties they seize. The only persons who can afford to buy them at basement prices are the filthy rich, many of whom have come by their loot not through hard work or wise investments, but by milking public funds through contracts and contacts, and criminals who are awash with tainted money they need to launder.

The average middle class family seeking housing, and seeing what has happened to those who had to surrender theirs, will hardly enter into mortgage arrangements at this time.

If I appear to be harsh on bankers in anticipation of the trauma they are about to inflict on many good citizens, I do it because I expect them to think creatively, to come up with solutions to a short-term challenge (the recession will not last forever) that big banks in bigger economies have refused to explore.

There was no “housing bubble” that suddenly burst, as happened in the USA in 2008. The victims were not living beyond their means. They played by the rules. They deserve better-at least to be allowed to keep the roofs over their families’ heads.

The banks will hardly budge, though.

Government should intervene through its mortgage finance companies, rescuing the victims from a fate worse than death.

For bankers, I recommend they watch Michael Moore’s movie “Capitalism: A Love Story” available on Youtube for free, no interest, no hidden charges.

11 thoughts on “Bankers and Bandits”

  1. A very interesting article Raff. Absolutely correct and calling a spade a spade, not forgetting lawyers alias liars as well. Keep it rolling and pretty soon we may see some interesting statistics with increased banditry and residential foreclosures.

  2. Mr. Shah accurately points out the behavior of the Trindad and Tobago Banking Cartel.

    He describes the way bankers have operated for centuries: relaxing lending standards in boom times and foreclosures and asset forfeitures in a recession.

    Many in sweet Trinbago have bought homes at the nosebleed prices over the last decade especially in the Northwest. And with a majority of our economy based on the declining prices of oil and gas many homeowners will find themselves in financial difficulty.

    But Mr. Shah errs in one aspect of his article. The banking cartel can take your house, car, and personal possessions. But they can’t take your life.

    That’s something that any run of the mill bandit can easily do today.

  3. Shah you must do a similar report on Insurers like GL who sign you up at a young age take millions off you throughout the years and even though you sign to certain insured monies they turn you out when you become a retiree. And their cry is take me to court if you do not like my offer. And of course the lawyers that work like vultures over you and your family. I wonder who benefits from the services of our mighty Civil Rights lawyer these days. As they say he wants to taste everybody’s soup. T&T is one big mess.

      1. When the black guy had an opportunity to kill the white guy, he did not do it. Instead he helped him out of the thorns and pickets that he was in. Even though, the black had the opportunity to kill him then, he showed leniency and allowed him to come back to continue the fight.

      2. This was a revenge fight on the part of the white guy. He was fighting to avenge the death of his brother. And he would settle for nothing less than the death of the black guy.

      Number one illustrates the evident gentle nature of the black man, to show compassion for people (even his opponents). It can be seen as we witness two versions of governance in our country. When Kamla had the reins of power, she went for the kill, to destroy her Opponent – Dr. Rowley. Using the weakness of black people, as evidenced by the willingness of Vernella Alleyne-Toppin to denigrate a fellow Tobagonian, Dr. Keith Rowley. She agreed to use Parliament to castigate Dr. Rowley as a rapist and un trustworthy human being. The South African Comedian Trevor Noah always described his birth as a crime (and it was). The case being, his father is white and his mother – black. That, under apartheid laws was considered a crime. So, in the same vein, Kamla, using the same argument, RAPE against an under aged girl (under 18 years old), is considered a crime. So, she used Parliament to show that Dr. Rowley committed a crime against his then girlfriend, his son’s mother. The opportunity to point out that Dr. Rowley RAPED his younger girlfriend is punishable by statute, and is still a CRIME was a political gamble by Kamla but she took the chance, to destroy Dr. Rowley. WERE Kamla to be successful in her attempt to make Dr. Rowley a criminal, she would have showed reasons to have him arrested and put in jail as a common criminal. This ‘weakness’ can be viewed in two ways: The willingness in Vernella to capitulate to Kamla’s wishes to destroy Dr. Rowley and now Dr. Rowley, even he holds the reins of power, does not show any inclinations to get back to Kamla for her wicked deeds.

      The second point: In other races, vengeance goes on for generations. In the war of attrition between the Nigerian Government in 1967 – 1970 and the Ibos, seeing independence for Biafra. The government forces were commanded by Gen. Yakubu Gowan, who prevailed against the Ibos. Yet, after a successful campaign, General Gowan flew in a plane, piloted by an Ibo Captain (whom he had just defeated), to take him home to the capital. This shows the trust black people place in other people (even their opponents). But the white man showed no such trust, he wanted to destroy his brother’s killer (and he did) at any cost. The fact that the black man had an opportunity to kill him first, did not factor in his thinking. His purpose was to avenge his brother’s killer and this he did at all costs.

      This is my take on the clip Alyssa. There might be other observances but those two points came clearly to my observations. It would be interesting to know what other people came up with. This is actually a good exercise because, normally we all see the same things but come up with totally different opinions of what we actually notice.
      So, good luck and please let us know your views.

      1. Kian,
        Thank you for your wholehearted response.However, my point is nothing of the sort. That cheesy macho movie is from 1990…it is in Thailand…Brahmanism (‘Hinduism’) is a major belief system there…pay ATTENTION…did you see the way the fight scene was set up?? 4he eth ic Garb they were wearing??? That there was a woman they were ultimately fighting over?? Along with a fight for/between ‘good’ and ‘evil’?? Who was the ‘evil’ guy and who was the ‘good’ guy??let me spell out what went over the head of Billy Blanks (black guy and inventor of Tae-Bo)…That scene was playing out the story of Ram,Sita & Rawan!!
        Ram, the white saviour,Sita the white, innocent hostage of Rawan, and Rawan, the Black, evil demon king who held sita hostage….The costumes that ‘ram’ and ‘rawan’ wore in that scene, as well as the masks were NOT random! Look at ‘Rawan’s’ mask and outfit as opposed to ‘Ram’s’…lol..
        Billy Blanks was chosen for his extremely dark skin & features…he thought it was because of his Kick Boxing skills…to a westerner (most) many didn’t Nd wouldn’t think of the sybolism and meaning behind the costumes, masks and role playing with skin colour. Thus was the point Kian.

        1. Alyssa, that is why we have come to depend on you so much, for knowledge of those close to us but we are ignorant of their history. After looking at your response, I checked Google only to find out that there is a huge hindu population in Thailand. Until then, I thought that bhudists made up the largest population group in that country. We in Trinidad need to understand that peoples of the old world are deeply rooted in tradition. Most of the traditions practiced are steeped in religious concepts, with deities that are different from the worship of Jehovah God. The machinations of our politics is evidence of those concepts. Look at how the Marlene McDonald’s issue is being played out. Those calling for her removal have practiced the same things they are accusing her of, but in their case, they see their behavior as worthy and that of Marlene’s as a contradiction of the laws. Marlene’s case is evidence of the moral decay of double standard reckoning that we have been dealing with for a long time bur few of us had the guts to talk about it. We have to let these people know that they are in the new world now and we have to reckon by new world standards, not the ones they have been practicing for thousands of years.

  4. Kamla has to answer for this. Republic Bank, Scotia Bank and RBC are completely dominated by Hindu shareholders, CEOs, CFOs and board members.


  6. Shah I am sure this money was deposited in BANKS …$9M paid for no work
    By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, March 24 2016

    FRAUDSTERS stole 12 cheques, worth $844,000 from the Ministry of Tourism, successfully cashing most at the Treasury and private banks.

    A Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament learnt of this yesterday as members asked questions of ministry officials led by Permanent Secretary (PS) Cecelia Greaves-Smith.

    The cheques had been issued in the names of specified companies and individuals, who have since had fresh cheques issued to them.

    She said further that thieves also stole from the ministry some 74 blank cheques, some of which have somehow been altered to read as if issued by another ministry.

    The Fraud Squad is probing these matters, said the PS, but could not give an update to the JSC due to difficulties contacting the investigating officers. The committee also heard of payments of $9 million – $5 million (for a project), $2 million (Cruise Ship Initiative) and $2 million (Lifeguard Service) – made by the Ministry of Tourism to certain “entities” for work that was never done.

    Greaves-Smith said the thefts were discovered in 2014 and she blamed it on lapses in the process by which cheques are stored and disbursed. Regarding security measures taken since then to try to safeguard future cheques, she said they are now stored in a fireproof cabinet which can only be accessed by a two officers using, at the same time, a “swipe” mechanism and keys. Beneficiaries can only collect a cheque by showing two forms of personal identification, to be photocopied and kept on record, and all under the gaze of CCTV cameras.

    She said the issuing clerk had lapsed by not properly processing the identification of the person receiving the cheque. She also proposed strengthening the ministry’s international audit function, saying the PS cannot see everything and that people may be promoted to the role of internal auditor but without having got adequate training.

    Greaves-Smith revealed that Udecott, project manager for Tower C, Port-of-Spain International Waterfront Centre, which houses many ministries, has warned that if all ministries install security vaults their collective weight could compromise the building’s structural integrity.

    Even as Udecott talks to Permanent Secretaries, the ministries sometimes opt to use fireproof filing cabinets in place of vaults, a scenario she said may be to blame for the theft of the cheques.

    The errant public servant had since resigned. Opposition MP Bhoe Tewarie asked about any complicity involving that former post-holder, but Greaves-Smith said she’d prefer not to answer.

    The JSC also probed the ministry’s plans and policies with Opposition Senator Rodger Samuel warning than an embargo-free Cuba could hurt tourism in TT, to which the response was that TT needs to make its attractions — such as Tobago’s Jazz and Blue Food Festivals — more marketable/ definitive. (See Page 15)


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